On October 4th, 2022, the municipality of Gramsh organized a promotional event for a presentation of the activities carried out within the project “New Opportunities for Safe Winter adventures”, funded by the EU, program for cross-border cooperation between the Republic of North Macedonia and the Republic of Albania.
The project is implemented by the Ohrid Red Cross in partnership with the municipalities of Debrca from RNM, Gramsh municipality from R. Albania, and the Alpine Club PATAGONIA Ohrid.
The event was held at the firefighting department in Gramsh, where the open garage for the firefighting vehicles, the two donated vehicles, rescue equipment, and a motor boat were presented. This donation significantly increases the capacity and readiness of the unit for operating in difficult-to-access areas.
Also, for the needs of the Firefighting Unit, numerous training for rescuing on non-technical terrain and managing the donated rescue equipment was carried out by the Ohrid Red Cross Mountain Rescue Service within this project.
Mr. Klodian Taçe, Mayor of the Municipality of Gramsh, Mr. Besian Ajazi, Deputy of Gramsh, Ms. Holta Comino, General Director of the Firefighter Service, and Mr. Antonio Dodevski, Project Manager, addressed the present guests, expressing their satisfaction and gratitude for the successful cooperation in implementing these activities in R. Albania.
Last week in the village of Brežani, municipality of Debrca, the Brežani Mountain Hut was opened, which is actually a reconstruction of the old school building and its adaptation into a mountain hut.
The reconstruction was made within the project New Opportunities for Safe Winter Adventures, funded by the European Union, IPA Programme for cross-border cooperation with Albania. The project was implemented by the Ohrid Red Cross in partnership with the municipalities of Debrca, RNM, and Gramsh, Albania, and the Alpine Club PATAGONIA Ohrid.
Mr. Zoran Nogaceski, Mayor of the Municipality of Debrca, Mr. Sašo Točkov, President of the Red Cross Ohrid, and Mr. Antonio Dodevski, head of the project “New Opportunities for Safe Winter Adventures”, addressed the guests, highlighting their satisfaction with this extremely successfully realized activity and at the same time expressing hope for the realization of as many projects as possible that will contribute to the development of adventure tourism, using the huge potential that this region possesses.
On the panel discussion held in Ohrid last week, for the first time in front of the senior state institution representatives, the topic of mountain rescue was discussed. Also, attendees discussed the implementation of international standards and the need for an institutional systematic solution for this issue in the country and cross-border region as a precondition for the development of adventure tourism and the safety of citizens.
Besides the Minister of Defense of RNM, Mrs. Slavjanka Petrovska, the director of the Crisis Management Center Mr. Stojance Angelov, and the mayors of Ohrid, Mr. Kiril Pecakov and the municipality of Gramsh, R. Albania, Mr. Klodian Tace, the panel was also attended by senior representatives of the Ministries of Interior and Defense, air forces, special police, and military units, the Civil Aviation Agency, the Directorate for Protection and Rescue, fire brigades, and a number of voluntary associations.
The attendees had a rare opportunity to get acquainted in detail with the mountain rescue system in the Republic of Croatia, directly from the head of CMRS, Mr. Josip Granic, who presented the “secret of success” of the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service, one of the best Services in Europe at this moment. Through examples and concrete figures, he presented the importance and role of the CMRS, as a basic operational force in the civil protection system in Croatia, which with its 1200 highly trained and equipped volunteers, deployed in 25 stations across the country, 24 hours, 7 days a week, takes care of the safety of citizens and numerous tourists.
Also, Mr. Granic emphasized the importance of the special law on CMRS, which fully regulates the role, rights, and duties of the members, but also financing and cooperation with other state institutions. He especially emphasized the voluntary organization of the Service, which is applied in 95% of the European countries and is characterized by high efficiency, economy, and mobility, especially in cases that last longer and require the involvement of a large number of people. He cited the latest case of a plane crash in Croatia, with more than 250 members of the CMRS involved in the search for this sports aircraft for two days in complex mountainous terrain and poor visibility. Mr. Granic also stressed the importance of strict adherence to international standards and recommendations of ICAR (International Commission for Alpine Rescue), without the implementation of which it is impossible to organize a modern service.
Mr. Kostantin Ciriviri, a renowned domestic expert in the field of mountaineering, mountain tourism, and mountain rescue, presented the basic elements of the study for the organization of the Ohrid Red Cross Mountain Rescue Service, prepared in 2019, as well as the significant results achieved in the last 3 years of the operation of the MRS in the cross-border region. The MRS as the only such Service at the moment provides service for the citizens and visitors to the region, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in accordance with European standards and recommendations of IKAR. This is an excellent example of efficient organization and regulation, which can be easily applied in other regions. However, the problem with financial sustainability remains unresolved, although the study made detailed forecasts and proposals for creating an economical annual budget, which predicts the involvement of municipalities in the region with minimum budget funds in the amount of 0.26% to 0.6% from their annual budgets (depending on the municipality). Unfortunately, the municipalities so far have not expressed readiness to provide these funds.
The MRS example indicates that the lack of an appropriate legal solution is a serious obstacle to creating an effective state system of mountain rescue, following the example of Croatia, which discourages volunteers, and instead of constant growth, results in a loss of enthusiasm and desire to give maximum to the community. Mr. Ciriviri emphasized that the assessments from the study, as well as the three-year analysis of the operation of MRS Ohrid, are an excellent base for the organizational charts and the model of action of the National Mountain Rescue Association, which in future, through an appropriate legal solution and in cooperation with other state institutions, will be able to effectively organize a state operational structure, ready to operate in all regions of the country, but also across borders, in neighboring Albania, if necessary.
The Minister of Defense, Ms. Slavjanka Petrovska, informed the participants of the panel on the civil protection reform process, which has already begun and the new concept should be presented by September. She expressed readiness to open the issue of legal regulation of the mountain rescue, following the example of Croatia, which will certainly be an integral part of the new civil protection system in the country.
The panel discussion was organized within the project “New Opportunities for Safe Winter Adventures”, funded by the EU, IPA program for cross-border cooperation with Albania and the Ministry of Local Self-Government of RNM, and was hosted by the Ohrid Red Cross Mountain Rescue Service, the National Union for Mountain Rescue and Alpine Club Patagonia Ohrid.
This morning, at 9:25 a.m. a colleague from MRS who lives in Kaneo, asked for assistance, for immobilization and transport of a neighbor who, while doing her daily work at home, fell and suffered a severe fracture of the lower leg. The MRS team arrived at the scene in 13 min. It carried out complete immobilization of the injured limb with the help of a modern vacuum aid, as well as additional immobilization of the entire body of the injured woman, in order to safely transport her along the steep and narrow streets in the settlement. After immobilization, the injured woman was carried to the church of St. Sofia, and transported to the Special Hospital for Orthopedics and Traumatology St. Erasmus, for further medical treatment with an MRS vehicle.
For the second time this year, the MRS assists the citizens and health services in safely evacuating injured residents from Kaneo, because the conventional methods of the other services are simply inapplicable.
These cases, fortunately with non-life-threatening injuries, once again raise the alarm about the necessity of acquiring specialized vessels, which will significantly increase the efficiency of rescue teams, in hard-to-reach lakeside settlements and tourist sites.
We wish the lady a speedy recovery, and we advise the residents of Kaneo settlement and all the citizens of the region to contact us promptly on our SOS line 13-112, whenever they need our help.
On May 4, the President of the ICAR Territorial Rescue Commission, Mr. Gebhard Barbish from Austria, visited the MRS Operational Center at the invitation of the National Union for Mountain Rescue, the Association ASKLEPIUS, and the Ohrid Red Cross Mountain Rescue Service.
The purpose of the visit was to acquaint Mr. Barbish with the implementation of the ICAR recommendations, the readiness of the National Union for Mountain Rescue for the transformation of ICAR membership with a higher degree as a national organization operating throughout the country, as well as the problems and the challenges we face, especially in terms of institutional support from state and local governments.
This visit was of great importance because we had the opportunity to hear from Mr. Barbisch, who has decades of experience in mountain rescue in Austria and worldwide as an active part of the ICAR structures, very useful advice on how to improve our position in society, as well as to ensure sustainability.
Mr. Gebhard Barbisch gave a short but very concise interview to the renowned Ohridnews portal about the mission and recommendations of ICAR, the organizational models of the rescue services worldwide, the advantages of the volunteer concepts, which are applied in 90% of the countries, as well as about the importance of institutional identification and support at the local and national level.
For this, we thank the Ohridnews portal, because it regularly follows our work and thus provides significant media support for the efforts we make.
Although late spring, the great snow conditions on Galichica enabled excellent snowy association with young Ohrid Red Cross volunteers, athletic club Ohrid TrchaT, and their parents. Last weekend, in the area around the mountain hut Spiridon on Galichica, the members of the Alpine club Patagonia Ohrid and Mountain Rescue Service hosted more than 30 guests, for which they organized unforgettable snowy adventures, fun but also educational.
It was a promotion of the Mobile Winter Adventure Park, a completely new offer for the visitors, that the Alpine club Patagonia Ohrid will offer not only in the area around the mountain hut Spiridon on Galichica and the new mountain hut in the village of Brezani, but also in other places suitable for that.
For the needs of this new touristic offer, which is within the project New Opportunities for Safe Winter Adventures, 30 sets of equipment (containing snowshoes, crampons, snow shovels, avalanche probes, as well as snowpack study and research kits) were procured. Combined with the alpinists’ skills of this club, this equipment will enable the visitors to experience unforgettable adventures with lots of fun but also education.
This promotional activity and the procured equipment for the needs of the Alpine Club Patagonia are funded by the EU, IPA program for cooperation with Albania, and the Macedonian Ministry of Local Self-government, with the aim of enriching the touristic offer, prolonging the touristic season, affording sustainability of the club’s activities, as well as an example for new contents, enabling sustainable use of nature in protected areas and national parks.
Within the Project “New opportunities for safe winter adventures”, financed by EU, IPA Program for cross-border cooperation with Albania, members of the Ohrid Red Cross Mountain Rescue Service, together with partners from the Municipality of Gramsh, organized training for rescue on non-technical mountainous terrain for the needs of the fire service from Gramsh.
The training took place near the Sotira waterfall, below Mount Tomoros slopes. This is a continuation of the training process, which began last year in the MRS training center in Ohrid. The purpose of the training is to train the firefighters from Gramsh for the correct use of the specialized equipment for rescue, as well as for safe performance of rescue operations on non-technical mountain terrain.
With this training and the new specialized equipment and vehicles, procured for the fire service from Gramsh within the project, the capacities of this Service will be significantly improved. The Gramsh firefighters will be able to deal with forest fires more successfully in the future, which are a frequent occurrence in this rural municipality, and will be able to provide self-help in case of accidents during their activities. It will also increase their efficiency and safety in interventions for injured tourists, who visit the mountains in this truly picturesque region in increasing numbers.
With the implemented project activities, the municipality of Gramš, as a partner in the project, establishes a serious basis for the development of adventure tourism, for which it really has great natural potential. We enjoyed the beautiful nature and the friendship with the firefighters and had the opportunity to exchange many useful experiences from our everyday lives. We also get to see for ourselves the culinary skills of the local residents of the mountain villages, who are already ready to welcome tourists in the coming season.
Yesterday, together with Mr. Elvis Ali, Program Manager for the IPA II program for cross-border cooperation with Albania, Mr. Marin Belluli, representative of JTS Antenna, as well as with representatives from the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs from Albania, we visited the reconstructed mountain hut in the village of Brezani. The meeting was also attended by the Mayor of Debrca, Mr. Zoran Nogaceski, with whom we presented the results of the activities for reconstruction and re-adaptation of the old school building in a mountain hut, and discussed the future sustainability of the building, as well as the planned reconstruction on the road from the village of Brezani to Ilinska Church, envisaged by the project “New opportunities for safe winter adventures”, funded by the EU through the IPA II program for cross-border cooperation with Albania and the Ministry of Local Self-Government.
Last weekend in Albania, the first national water rescue championship was held, where the team from Pogradec won first place in the individual competition and third place as a team.
We are especially proud of their success because we participated in creating the first generation of lifeguards in Pogradec, trained and fully equipped within the first project we implemented with EU financial support, through the IPA program for cross-border cooperation with Albania.
One of the main goals of the project “Lake Ohrid Region – Safe destination for adventure travel”, implemented in the period 2017-2019, was the establishment of two new rescue services in the cross-border region, namely the Mountain Rescue Service in Ohrid and the Water Rescue Service in Pogradec.
The achieved result of this first national championship in Albania, in competition with seaside teams from Vlora, Shkodra, Saranda, Durres, and others, is just another proof that investing in rescue systems is of great importance for the communities that are continuing to work on maintaining and enhancing the achieved results.
We once again thank the Albanian Federation “Coast Lifeguard and Water Rescue” (Federata Shqiptare ”Vrojtuesit e Plazhit dhe Shpëtimit në Ujë”) and the Municipality of Pogradec, who were actively involved in the implementation of the project, and are still continuing to develop this success story that we started together back in 2017.
We are really happy about the achievements and we congratulate the lifeguards and the municipality of Pogradec for their success.
In addition, take a look at the promotional video from 2019 for the first water rescue team in Pogradec.
Video presentation of the rescue equipment for operating in winter conditions, intended for the Ohrid Red Cross Mountain Rescue Service.
This state-of-the-art equipment is of great importance for successful operation, as well as for increasing the mobility, safety, and efficiency of the rescue teams. It was procured with funds from the European Union, through the IPA program for cross-border cooperation with Albania, within the project “New opportunities for safe winter adventures”.